My mother was the ultimate witch. My earliest memories are strongly linked to my mother’s ritualistic practices. Strange devotional movements made in the early morning sun by her bed, foreign mantras whispered to me whenever I was in pain – I remember holding her hand and repeating Om Mani Padme Hum while my eardrum near burst on a plane and being read bizarre visualisations of green goddesses and soft pink light when I couldn’t sleep.
I was handed potions out of little amber bottles when I had a headache and tiny sugar tasting pills from blue vials for toothache. A group of gentle looking, softly walking, comfortably clothed people would visit each week and sit in a circle, talking quietly among one another.
Sometimes one of them would come and take her away for a couple of weeks to a place called “Tara Hills”. She’d hug me goodbye and I’d spend the next fourteen days dreaming of her holidaying in some kind of fairy glen. Once I even found a most mystical diary written in code on her desk.
Her early twenties were spent surf-side and bikini clad, known among the grommets as Wendy Witch Eyes. Whether this was because of her pale blue eyes lined in black kohl or because nothing got past her pin point perception, I’m unsure. By the time I came into the picture she was affectionately called the Wicked Witch of the West within her coven of friends, The Witches. I always felt the reference was more Roald Dahl than Wizard of Oz .
Her best friend strongly resembled Stevie Nicks (complete with patchwork cloak and constant 70’s basket as handbag) and they definitely cackled over the pot every now and then (both types).
It wasn’t until years later that I learnt her strange ritualistic movements were yoga - still obscure in 80s suburbia. The mantras and visualisations came from her love of Tibetan Buddhism and are widely used today, the potions and pills - aromatherapy and homeopathy. The diary - I figured that one out when I studied journalism - it was shorthand leftover from her days as a political secretary in the 70s.
The people in our house, quiet and sitting in a circle - her meditation group. Tara Hills - a meditation retreat centre that once existed in the Adelaide Hills. These rituals normalised as our world opened with the internet and yoga and meditation became Westernised. So while I grew up and saw them less mysteriously they are still infused with a strange nostalgic magic.